Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord! So easy to say, but how often do we say it! And even when we say it, how much of it do we mean?
When God decides to ask a question, it is not because he does not know the answer; it is usually an indication of the fact that there is trouble. God asked the first question in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit. “Where are you?” He asked Adam. Also, after Cain had killed Abel, God asked Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Today, Jesus is asking another question in the Gospel passage, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” This question shows that something is wrong again.
Numbers, as used in the Bible, signify various things. For example, the number ten is another number that stands for totality. We have the Ten Commandments standing for the totality of all that God requires of us. Today, we have the number ten for the lepers. This number tells us that the lepers represent all nations, all of humanity. Leprosy among the Jews was a sign that the leper had sinned. So, the ten lepers remind us of the scripture that says, “All have sinned” (Romans 3: 23). Thus, each one of us is represented by at least one of the ten lepers. The question we have to answer today is, “Which of the ten are you?” Are you one of the nine, whose where-about Jesus is asking of today? Or are you the Samaritan leper who came back to thank Jesus?
During the time of Jesus’ public ministry, the Lepers could not come near villages as they were considered unclean. To be cured of leprosy was a miracle compared to reviving the dead. The isolation lepers suffered was more painful than the disease itself. For the Samaritan, his was even double tragedy because, being a Samaritan, he was considered impure. Probably, the other lepers discriminated against him. Maybe, that was why he could stand on his own and decide to come back to thank Jesus rather than follow the bandwagon.
The Bible does not tell us why the other nine did not come back, but we can imagine the reasons that came up in them. They might have told themselves such things as:
-Let’s wait and see if the cure is real. Besides, there is plenty of time to see Jesus later if we need to -I told you guys just to have positive thoughts that you will be well -Now that we are ok, do we still need him?
Are we different from these nine lepers? Are there not times when we think that we have earned what we have, and so do not need to thank God or anyone for it? If we think so, what did we do to merit being born alive while some were born dead or aborted? If we think we are free from accidents because we are good drivers, what about the possibility of being hit by another driver, who is “crazy?”
It is regrettable that the more familiar we become with the blessings from God, the more we take them for granted. For example, if the stars came out only once a year, everybody would stay up all night to behold them. But since we see the stars so often, we don’t bother to look at them anymore. A lonely grandma or grandpa in a nursing home will appreciate a visit more than a celebrity with a party thrown in their honor. A hungry and homeless person will be more thankful for a piece of bread than a rich person will be for a full table.
St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18). In every situation, there is always something for which to thank God. If you worry because your parents will not let you be, they monitor all your steps; you have to thank God because it is an indication that they are still alive. If you are worried about the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, then thank your God, it means you have a home. If you are disturbed by the lady who sits behind you in Church because she sings off-key and very loud, thank your God, because it means your ears are still able to hear.
Have you ever observed how the chicken drinks water? The chicken takes a sip at a time, and for each sip, the chicken looks up to the sky to swallow the water. The scientific explanation is that the chicken looks up so that gravity may aid the swallowing process. But the traditional African interpretation is that it is an expression of perpetual gratitude. Each time the chicken looks up, the chicken is saying, “Thank you, God, I know this water is from you.” So, the chicken thanks God for each sip of water and takes none of it for granted. There are lots of benefits we get from being thankful to God. The fourth option for the common prefaces at Mass says that our thanksgiving does not add anything to God and that the desire to thank God is itself a gift from God. It goes further to say that when we thank God, we gain the profit of salvation. This claim is evident in today’s Gospel passage. When the Samaritan came back in thanksgiving, Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” While the ten lepers received their cure, the one who came back to thank Jesus received salvation in addition to being cured. When we give thanks, we get more blessings. As we move on to the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, let us continue to give thanks to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son, and in unity with the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C